Swahili International Tourism Expo takes lessons learned from last year

Following the closure of the inaugural SITE 2014 event, Denis Gathanju of Safari Communications filed his report, its content confirmed by several other participants in what appeared to be a highly-challenged event. The reaction from Dar es Salaam swift and loud.

Accusations were made of deliberate misrepresentations and ill intent, and denials flew around high and low, attempting to rubbish Denis’ report. Yet, the figures confirmed this year of only 19 hosted buyers, and media in 2014 show that the sentiments were in fact spot on and that the rabble rousers were themselves those who misrepresented the figures, when opportunity arose at the Air Seychelles inaugural flight celebration in December last year in Dar es Salaam to have a go at this correspondent.

It appears, however, that fire-spitting hotheads aside, the Tanzania Tourism Board and the event managers did take notice of the sentiments made and the constructive critique offered and worked hard to improve the tourism trade show for this year.

Here is Dennis’ review of the 2015 event, again candidly written. It is clearly not aimed to pacify the fire-spitting dragons which went on a rampage last year following his equally candid assessment of the inaugural event, but to give a fair assessment once more of an event he attended and to which this correspondent was neither invited nor received any media updates from TTB and the organizers.

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S!TE shows growth; seeks to tap regional travel

The second edition of the Swahili International Tourism Expo (S!TE) officially kicked off to a grand opening by the Vice President of the Republic of Tanzania H.E. Mohamed Gharib Bilal on October 1, 2015.

The three-day event was meant to position Tanzania as a growing tourism destination while at the same time, cementing regional co-operation on matters tourism. While the inaugural edition of the fair received a mix bag of comments right from the organizers to the show-goers to the exhibitors, this year’s show has received a massive thumbs up from literally everyone.

Kudos go to the organizers of the event, especially the Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB) for setting up a not only a wonderful trade show, but going in as far as attracting a growing number of hosted buyers and exhibitors that meant business and were keen on engaging with the business community within the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors across Tanzania and the entire region.

The presence of the Vice President of the Republic of Tanzania H.E. Mohamed Gharib Bilal at the event underlined the commitment that the Government of Tanzania has put into ensuring that tourism within and around Tanzania continues to grow as this has massive effects on growing the economy. While touring the stands, the Vice President visited the Magical Kenya stand and was received by the Kenya Tourism Board’s Regional Marketing Manager Mr. Jonathan Mbiyu Koinange.

Said the Vice President: “We are pleased to see you our Kenyan brothers here in Tanzania and we also look forward to coming to the Magical Kenya Travel Expo. We hope that through such ventures, we will enhance our co-operation under the spirit of the East African Community to ensure that our people benefit and learn from each other.”

Jonathan informed the Vice President that Kenya was committed to working with neighboring countries within the East African Community and the entire African region to increase inter-Africa tourism and thereby spur economic growth across the region.

And this was the message that resonated with everyone including the Managing Director of the Tanzania Tourism Board Ms. Devota Mdachi who underlined the need of working together to enhance cross-border travel.

Said she: “We welcome the participation of Kenya at this year’s event. We also have a representative from Uganda while Rwanda are represented here through their national airline RwandAir. This is the same case as Ethiopia through Ethiopian Airlines. Our brothers from Burundi were unable to participate this year, but we hope to welcome them back next year.”

Added Jonathan: “In my opinion, domestic and regional travel is the way to go. And this can only be achieved through such events that will help open up our destinations to each other. In so doing, we will bake a bigger cake for tourism and enhance job creation amongst our people and then we can further supplement this with the international tourists that we also seek to attract.”

Charity Githinji, the business development manager at Arusha-based Kibo Palace Hotel said that there was indeed a huge market that largely remained untapped in the region. “For instance, most of the business at our hotel comes from Kenya and elsewhere in the region. And what is more, is that most of these guests from the region tend to spend more during their trips. And these include business and leisure travelers. This is a strong indicator that if we exploit the local and regional markets to the fullest, then we will all benefit.”

“In our case, we have seen a marked increase in business travel from Tanzania into South Africa over the last one year. It has grown by more than 2.5 per cent and we expect it to be higher this year,” noted Evelyn Mahlaba, the Regional Director Africa for the South African Tourism Board.

According to Devota, the turn out at this year’s event has been quite high. The TTB brought in more than 48 hosted buyers and media from across the world as compared to 19 last year. There were also more than 100 companies registered and at little over 2,000 visitors gracing the 3-day event.

Said she: “We took lessons from the event last year and immediately got down to work to ensure that the event this year was better planned and organized. We plan to have an even more successful event next year and hope to enhance the cultural aspect of tourism even further. We also hope to have on board more regional tourism organizations and associations participating. See you all at S!TE 2016.”

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